Creature features have a long history. For nearly as long as the medium has been around, monsters on screen have been a fixture of our cinematic obsessions. The great ones bring a sense of wonder, or dread, or perhaps both. Early versions were all about makeup, sometimes it looked great and sometimes it didn’t, even when done poorly, that could be part of the fun.

Sean Ellis’ Eight for Silver is being referred to as a werewolf story, but that doesn’t seem quite right. The beast at the center of the story feels more like an amalgamation of a werewolf and a vampire, but never fully materializes as either. The world is rendered almost entirely practically with true tactility. This might be the biggest problem at the film’s core, while the world feels fleshed out and natural, the CGI monster distracts from the otherwise lovingly stitched world.

Late in the 19th century a curse descends upon a family and village in France. The curse is of their own making when the land baron, Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie), orders an attack on a gypsy caravan that has rolled into town claiming rights to the land. This attack sets in motion the events that bring the monster to their remote village. Once Laurent’s son, Edward (Max Mackintosh), goes missing, he calls upon a visiting pathologist, John McBride (Boyd Hollbrook), to help them in the hunt for the monster. Thus ensues the struggle between the townspeople to rid the curse from their land.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Ellis fleshes the world out so well in the first half of the movie, teasing the monster more than outright showing it. There is an uneasy quality to the direction that heightens the suspense. The action in the first half is obscured and is propelled by a more visceral energy than the second half. Once he fully reveals what they are fighting, some steam is let out of the engine. While it doesn’t halt the proceedings, there is a deflation of sorts.

There is genuine pleasure in watching McBride begin to face the monster head on. The movie mostly works and there would be something exciting about seeing Boyd Hollbrook in a serialized version of this, tracking down and hunting monsters attacking French villages. He brings a lot of energy to the role and fits into the film’s over serious tone, but also balances it with understanding the kind of movie he is in.

Ellis has considerable skill behind the camera. Much of this movie works from a filmmaking standpoint, and he really sinks his teeth into some of the body horror elements, making great use of how things like arms and legs can just be fun props to play around with in this type of movie. When it missteps, though, it is hard to gain back some of the goodwill because the rendering of the monster feels like a Resident Evil PS3cut-scene.

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